Thursday, September 18, 2003

From the Hutton Inquiry testimony of Sir Richard Dearlove, chief of MI6, pretentiously testifying from a secure location by voice only (so no foreign spies could see what Sir Richard, known as 'C', looks like), and answering the question: "Did you consider that the 45 minutes . . . was given undue prominence?" (here, sections 101 and 102):

"Well, I think given the misinterpretation that was placed on the minutes intelligence, with the benefit of hindsight you can say that is a valid criticism. But I am confident that the intelligence was accurate and that the use made of it was entirely consistent with the original report.

LORD HUTTON: Would you just elaborate what you mean by the misinterpretation placed on the 45 minutes claim, Sir Richard?

A. (Pause). Well, I think the original report referred to chemical and biological munitions and that was taken to refer to battlefield weapons. I think what subsequently happened in the reporting was that it was taken that the 45 minutes applied, let us say, to weapons of a longer range, let us say just battlefield material."

and, in response to a question of whether the 45-minute claim was unhelpful to an understanding of the issue (section 103):

"Given the misinterpretation of the original piece of intelligence, particularly as it was not qualified in terms of its relationship to battlefield munitions, this now looks a valid criticism; but I think the intelligence was accurate and that it was put to legitimate use in the drafting process."

This explanation is sheer nonsense. Note that Sir Richard wallows in the passive voice, saying "was taken to refer to battlefield weapons", and attempts to put the blame for the problem on the "reporting". But what else were people supposed to think? The point made by Blair was that the 45 minutes was the time between Saddam deciding to do something awfully bad to Britain, and Saddam's weapons taking off. The whole essence of the dossier was to make the claim that an attack on Saddam was the only possible way for Britain to avoid taking a terrible risk from an attack from Saddam. If Saddam's weapons weren't capable of reaching any British interests, the whole basis of the 45-minute claim evaporates. The reason that a 'misinterpretation' was made is that the 45-minute claim only makes sense if it refers to a real capability to attack British interests. Because such capacity didn't exist, and British intelligence and the Blair government knew it didn't exist, the 45-minute claim is a bare-faced lie.